Princeton Offers Tenure To Philosophy Professor

Less than two weeks after Carswell Professor of Afro-American Studies and of Philosophy K. Anthony Appiah accepted a tenure appointment from Princeton, Harvard’s philosophy department is in danger of losing yet another member to its competition in New Jersey.

Princeton’s philosophy department last month extended a tenure-track offer to James Pryor, Harvard Assistant Professor of Philosophy.

Pryor said yesterday that he is considering the offer.

“Harvard and Princeton both have strong philosophy departments, and they’re both attractive places to be,” Pryor wrote in an e-mail. He said, however, that he would not be making a decision in the immediate future.

Professors note the Harvard-Princeton pipeline for philosophy professors is hardly new.

“There’s plenty of back and forth—it’s a very normal thing,” said Professor of Philosophy Richard Moran, who came to Harvard from Princeton in 1995.

And the flow over the years has largely favored Harvard, according to Moran.

Thomas M. Scanlon, Jr., who is the Alford professor of natural religion, moral philosophy, and civil polity, is another member of the philosophy department who was plucked from Princeton’s ranks. Scanlon arrived at Harvard in 1984.

Gilbert Harman, chair of Princeton’s philosophy department, said the school hoped Pryor would accept the offer.

“He’s a very promising young man, and we like his stuff,” Harman said.

Pryor, who is an epistemologist, has a doctorate from Princeton.

Pryor’s colleagues said they could not predict what his decision would be but said they hoped he would ultimately remain in Cambridge.

“We’re completely unclear about what he’ll do, and he’s got a lot to think about,” said Loeb Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Simmons.

“We certainly hope Professor Pryor will stay with us,” Moran said.

Such sentiments are understandable in a department of only 20 professors, five of whom are visiting.

In addition to Appiah’s departure, Harvard’s philosophy department is also suffering from the recent loss of Pellegrino University Professor Robert Nozick, who died of stomach cancer at the age of 63 last month.

—Staff writer Kate L. Rakoczy can be reached at